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Clean Energy Blog


The Clean Energy program is responsible for powering sustainable solutions and progress past bad ideas. With your help, we oppose West Coast coal and crude oil export, protect our region from dangerous transport of fossil fuels, and advocate for clean energy solutions throughout our communities. Read more.

Whatcom County Council finalizes Cherry Point amendments to Comprehensive Plan: Join us to speak out in support

posted Apr 26, 2017, 5:19 PM by Eddy Ury   [ updated May 15, 2017, 10:23 AM ]

Why do we need local action?

Though the Cherry Point coal terminal has been defeated, Cherry Point is on the map to become an export corridor for crude oil, tar sands bitumen, fracked gas and propane. 

Faced with proposals from multinational companies seeking to circumvent U.S. law, who may sue the county for rejecting permits and put taxpayers on the hook, Whatcom County urgently needs to make clear policies before new proposals are submitted. Until these policies are finalized, Whatcom County maintains a moratorium on permits for new developments to export unrefined fossil fuel through Cherry Point.

Oil companies lobbied to lift the federal ban on crude oil export. With a drastic rise in oil from North Dakota and Alberta moving to Cherry Point by rail and pipeline, the refineries are positioned to use their shipping piers for exporting crude oil and tar sands. Here's where we stand:
  • Kinder Morgan will likely seek to expand their Trans Mountain pipeline to Cherry Point. 
  • Williams Pipeline has proposed to build a gas pipeline through Cherry Point for export via Vancouver Island. 
  • Petrogas has recently begun exporting propane through the Intalco pier, creating a demand for propane bomb trains (which are even more explosive than oil trains) moving through Whatcom County. 
  • SSA Marine has stated intentions to build a new shipping pier, which could expand oil export capacity. 
Crude oil export will bring simultaneously more bomb trains, more pipelines, and more tanker traffic through the Salish Sea, while undermining job security for local refinery workers

But we have legal tools to stop crude export through Washington before it begins on a mass scale. The first step is to pass amendments to Whatcom County’s Comprehensive Plan, an important growth management document which sets policies to direct zoning restrictions on permits for land and water use. 


What is the "Magnuson Amendment?"

The Magnuson Amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a crucial law that prohibits permitting of facilities that would increase crude oil shipments through Puget Sound, if not for consumption in Washington. But this law will not be enforced automatically. Whatcom County must ensure that all permits involving crude oil or bitumen shipments must be reviewed to be lawful under the Magnuson Amendment to the MMPA. Read more about Magnuson here. 


The final Comprehensive Plan amendments for Cherry Point

The final Comprehensive Plan amendments for Cherry Point would:
  • Prevent piecemeal upgrades for oil exports by requiring “Magnuson Amendment” review of all permits that involve handling petroleum.
  • Block any new proposals for shipping piers in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Recognize Lummi Nation’s history and treaty-protected fishing rights.
  • Complete a legal study by December 2017 to develop recommendations for legal ways the County may choose to limit the negative impacts from crude oil, coal. liquefied petroleum gases, and natural gas exports. New legislation will likely follow completion of the study. 

Speak out in support

With major blowback from BP and others looking to export crude oil, in an election year no less, the County Council must have majority public support to pass these forward-thinking policies! How you can help:
  1. Please email the County Council and ask them to adopt the final amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, and take further action to protect our communities! council@co.whatcom.wa.us 

  2. Join us for the FINAL public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan. This is the final opportunity to speak out before the Council votes. Arrive by 6pm to secure a seat and sign up to speak. Speakers will have up to three minutes to address the Council. The meeting will begin at 7pm in the County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave in downtown Bellingham. 

State legislature goes into special session: It's time to push for a vote on solar!

posted Apr 26, 2017, 12:55 PM by Virginia Cleaveland   [ updated Apr 26, 2017, 3:04 PM ]

Thanks to your continued support, the Solar Jobs Bill (HB 1048 & SB 5499) is making process moving through the legislature.

The Solar Jobs Bill has been designated as "necessary to implement the budget," so the bill is free from deadlines like last week's end of the regular session. Both HB 1048 and SB 5499 are still active in the new "special session" that began this week. We only have a few weeks left now to pass the Solar Jobs Bill.

In the House, the bill is under consideration in the Finance Committee. In the Senate, we're gathering steam and hope we can soon move the bill out of the Energy, Environment, and Telecommunications Committee. Now, we need solar champions in every corner of the Senate demanding the chance to vote for solar.


Will your state senator be a solar jobs champion?

Please ask your state senator if you can count on his or her support for the Solar Jobs Bill (SB 5499). You can contact any senator who represents districts where you live or work. Here's how:
  • Look up your senator on the legislature's District Finder tool
  • Fill in your address to find your senator's first and last name. 
  • Be sure the "district type" is set to Legislative.
  • Your senator's email is first.last@leg.wa.gov.
  • Call your senator TODAY and ask if you can count on their support the Solar Jobs Bill. 
  • If your senator supports solar jobs, please thank them and urge them to demand their colleagues for a chance to vote on solar. It's time to schedule a vote.

Talking points

Tell your senator that solar means business for every corner of Washington. The Solar Jobs Bill will:
  • Create 2,875 new jobs, or 25 jobs per megawatt of solar power.
  • Generate nearly $150 Million in payroll across WA.
  • Keep over $630 Million of our energy dollars in WA, as utility rates escalate over the 30-year lifetime of a solar system.
  • Bring home nearly $10 Million of federal tax credits through the federal solar investment tax credit.
  • Deploy approximately $630,000 of new revenue into local towns through sales tax on solar energy system purchases.
  • Turn every $1 invested in solar into $20 in economic activity, according to Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research.
  • Curbs climate pollution, keeps our air clean, and eases the burden on the declining supply of freshwater to Washington’s dams.

More information

Learn more about the campaign for the Solar Jobs Bill at Solar Strong WA: solarstrongwa.org.

Legislative updates on oil transportation, solar bills

posted Mar 30, 2017, 10:41 AM by Virginia Cleaveland   [ updated Mar 30, 2017, 3:41 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities ]

In the coming weeks, the Oil Transportation Safety Act and the Solar Incentives bills need to be at the forefront of every legislator's mind. How you can support these bills: 


Solar Incentives

As of Thursday, March 30th, the solar bill (HB 1048) is languishing in the finance committee, and it needs additional support. Thankfully, the committee chair AND the bill sponsor both represent the 40th legislative district — which includes San Juan County as well as portions of Whatcom and Skagit counties. Learn more at solarstrongwa.org.

Even if you don't live in the 40th LD, please contact finance committee chair Kris Lytton and bill sponsor Jeff Morris to tell them to push the solar bill forward.

Contacting your legislators by phone is by far the most productive and impactful form of communication. Read more in the New York Times article "Here's why you should call, not email, your legislators." 

Talking points 

RE: Solar Incentives Bill (HB 1048) 

Dear [insert name],

Now is the time for local action to build our clean-energy economy. Please support HB 1048. The solar bill is important because it:
  • Ensures certainty for new solar owners, and protects existing solar owners. 
  • Is more efficient than the old program the state is currently locked into. Without an update, the legacy program will add very few solar panels (or jobs) from now on. 
  • Serious solar bang for our buck: The 2017 Solar Jobs Bill, HB 1048, uses state dollars much more effectively, deploying 5x more solar per dollar than the legacy program.
  • Assures our home-grown solar industry can continue to grow and hire just like the rest of the US. Nationally, the solar industry is adding jobs 12x faster than the rest of the economy. We could have that growth here in WA, but instability is causing us to miss out.


Oil Transportation Safety Act

On Thursday, March 30th, the oil transportation bill (HB 1611) passed out of the House finance committee. Learn more about the bill.

Please contact your representatives today to tell them this is an important issue and urge them to vote YES on oil transportation safety. Find your legislator and view the talking points below.

Contacting your legislators by phone is by far the most productive and impactful form of communication. Read more in the New York Times article "Here's why you should call, not email, your legislators." 

Talking points

RE: Oil Transportation Safety Act (HB 1611)

Dear [insert name],

I am concerned about the ongoing threat that oil trains, pipelines, and tankers pose to my community and our waterways. 

The Oil Transportation Safety Act (HB 1611) is a commonsense approach to strengthening our prevention, response and preparedness program. Let’s not wait for a spill or other disaster to happen to take action. 

I urge you to vote YES on HB 1611 and protect all of Washington from crude oil transport. Thank you for considering my comments, and I look forward to your response.

HB 1611: Tell your legislators you care about protecting communities from crude oil

posted Mar 2, 2017, 10:37 AM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Mar 3, 2017, 2:52 PM by Virginia Cleaveland ]

We are in the thick of the legislative session, and your legislators need to hear that you care about protecting your community from crude oil. 

Representative Jessyn Farrell (46th District) and Senator Reuven Carlyle (36th District) are the sponsors for House Bill 1611, the Oil Transportation Safety Act. Given the Trump Administration’s close ties with the oil industry, the Puget Sound will continue to be a target for more oil that puts our communities and waterways at risk. Washington can and should stand up to the oil industry and ensure that all available protections are in place. Please email your legislators today.

The Oil Transportation Safety Act needs additional support to move from committee and make its way to a full floor vote in the House. This is a commonsense bill that holds the oil industry accountable for the risks they pose to our communities and waterways. The bill has four key points:
  • Establishing a stable and reliable funding source to ensure that the state has the resources to do top-notch prevention, response and preparedness work.

  • Protecting the Puget Sound from underregulated barges and new types of oil.

  • Requiring refineries to update protections and notify the public about plans to become oil terminals.

  • Strengthening oversight and community engagement on pipelines. 

Despite these basic protections, the oil industry is fighting this tooth and nail. Tell your legislators that this is an issue you care about and want passed. 


How you can help

Contacting your legislators by phone is by far the most productive and impactful form of communication. Read more in the New York Times article "Here's why you should call, not email, your legislators." 
  1. Call your legislators. Let your state representatives know you support this bill and that it deserves a full vote on the House floor. Find your legislators through the Washington State Legislature's District Finder and view the talking points below.

  2. Email your legislators. Find your legislators through the Washington State Legislature's District Finder and view the talking points below.

  3. Contact your legislators through this quick and easy form. Visit the Stand Up to Oil website and enter your zip code to make sure your email goes to the right place.

Email to legislators

RE: Oil Transportation Safety Act (HB 1611)

Dear [insert name],

I am concerned about the ongoing threat that oil trains, pipelines, and tankers pose to my community and our waterways. 

The Oil Transportation Safety Act (HB 1611) is a commonsense approach to strengthening our prevention, response and preparedness program. Let’s not wait for a spill or other disaster to happen to take action. 

I urge you to vote YES on HB 1611 and protect all of Washington from crude oil transport. Thank you for considering my comments, and I look forward to your response.

Support Whatcom County Council in Comprehensive Plan policies for Cherry Point, extending fossil fuel export moratorium

posted Mar 1, 2017, 2:35 PM by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities   [ updated Mar 30, 2017, 3:48 PM ]

Although SSA Marine has withdrawn their 2011 county permits for a coal terminal at Cherry Point, the fact is still the same: Cherry Point remains a targeted route to export crude oil, tar sands, and fracked gas.

In March 2017, the Whatcom County Council is working on updates to their Comprehensive Plan policies for Cherry Point. This is a huge turning point for the future of our community. 

Join us in calling on the Whatcom County Council to take actions to protect the public by discouraging projects to bring more dangerous crude oil shipments through Whatcom County, Cherry Point, and the Salish Sea.


Next steps for the Whatcom County Council 

Whatcom County's moratorium on permit applications for unrefined fossil fuel export projects at Cherry Point is set to expire in March 2017, which could open a window for SSA Marine to apply for a new project. The county is also working through Comprehensive Plan updates to their planning policies for Cherry Point. We're asking Whatcom County to: 
  • Extend the temporary moratorium until the Shoreline Master Plan is updated and until new development regulations are implemented. Additionally, add a moratorium on applications for any modification of piers, docks or wharfs in or adjacent to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Commence a legal study into Whatcom County's powers to prevent future development for coal, oil, and gas exports.
  • Strengthen policies in the Comprehensive Plan to limit new piers and restrict permits involving oil transport.
In spring 2017, the Whatcom County Council is working to update policies for the long-disputed Cherry Point amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. We support policies to:
  • Prevent piecemeal upgrades for oil exports by requiring Magnuson Amendment review of all permits that involve handling petroleum.
  • Block any new proposals for shipping piers in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.
  • Recognize Lummi Nation’s history and treaty-protected fishing rights.
  • Complete a legal study by December 2017.
With the lifting of the federal ban on crude oil export, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) is a crucial law that protects the Puget Sound. But this law will not be enforced unless we demand it. Whatcom County must ensure that all permits involving crude oil or bitumen shipments must be reviewed to be lawful under the Magnuson Amendment to the MMPA. Read more on the Magnuson Amendment.


How you can help

  1. Send a comment to the Whatcom County Council. 
    Email council members and encourage them to extend the temporary moratorium on permits for fossil fuel export projects. View the talking points below.

  2. Attend the public hearing. 
    Speak out in support of extending the moratorium and strengthening policies in the Comprehensive Plan. Email us to RSVP for the public hearing at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, March 21st at Whatcom Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave. in Bellingham. (mapPlease wear red.

  3. Attend our Clean Energy Activist Meeting.
    RSVP on Facebook for our monthly activist meeting from 6:30 - 8:30 PM on Monday, March 6th at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, 2309 Meridian St. in Bellingham. (map)


Talking points on the fossil fuel moratorium

Dear Whatcom County Council,

As a [insert city] resident and citizen of Whatcom County, I implore you to act to the full extent of your power to protect our community's health and safety, farms, fisheries and natural resources from the dangers of fossil fuel shipments by rail, pipeline and marine vessel. Cherry Point is a targeted route to export crude oil, tar sands, fracked gas, and propane from Canada, which would bring high risks of spills, leaks, explosions, pollution, traffic, a local tax burden, reduced property values, and the degradation of our quality of life.

I urge you to take the following actions, without delay:
  • Extend the temporary moratorium on permits for fossil fuel export projects until the Shoreline Master Plan is updated and until new development regulations are implemented. Additionally, please add a moratorium on applications for any modification of piers, docks, or wharfs in or adjacent to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve.

  • Commence a legal study into Whatcom County's powers to prevent future development for coal, oil, and gas exports.

  • Strengthen policies in the Comprehensive Plan to prevent piecemeal upgrades for oil exports by requiring Magnuson Amendment review of all permits that involve handling petroleum; block any new proposals for shipping piers in the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve; recognize Lummi Nation’s history and treaty-protected fishing rights; and complete a legal study by December 2017.
I support your work to protect the ecological and cultural significance of Cherry Point. Thank you.



NEW: March 21 Hearing Update

It was a sea of red on Tuesday night, March 21st in council chambers. 
Thanks to you, the Whatcom County Council voted 6-1 to extend the moratorium on permits for unrefined fossil fuel export projects at Cherry Point.

Thanks and gratitude must also go to the council. They’ve put in a lot of overtime to make sure we end up with a strong Comprehensive Plan and they extended the moratorium with their vote. 

Please send a quick message of appreciation to our County Council. 

Let them know how much you appreciate their leadership and the time they have devoted to safeguarding our community. Email council@co.whatcom.wa.us or call 360-778-5010 to say thanks!

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